Students from Banks High School's FIRST Robotics team met with Bonamici before last week's town hall meeting.

STAFF PHOTO: OLIVIA SINGER - Students showed Bonamici a robot they had built at Banks High School on Tueday, March 27.Oregon's First District Rep. Suzanne Bonamici spends much of her time visiting schools when Congress is in recess and she's back in the state.

On Tuesday, March 27, Bonamici stopped by Banks High School to meet with students from the school's FIRST Robotics team before her town hall meeting at Pacific University that evening.

Bonamici, who is the founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional STEAM Caucus, has played a major role in integrating STEAM education into schools. Derived from the STEM program which integrates science, technology, engineering and math into curriculum and activities, STEAM adds arts and design to the concept.

FIRST Robotics, the acronym "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology" is a great representation of the creativity and communication skills learned through a STEAM program, Bonamici said.

"A program like FIRST Robotics gets students engaged, and it also gives them really important skills that help them in the future, regardless of what path they take," she said. "I always enjoy speaking with students, and especially students who are engaged in these creative activities like FIRST Robotics."

Bonamici is a lead booster of STEAM programs at the federal level, co-chairing the bipartisan Congressional STEAM Caucus. She said the concept has become increasingly popular.

"We have seen a real positive response to STEAM," she said. "It's a bipartisan caucus that I started several years ago and we now have more than 80 members."

Language to encourage STEAM was recently implemented into the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as the Career and Technical Education Bill that has passed the House but not yet the Senate, Bonamici noted.

Last Tuesday afternoon, Bonamici met several FIRST Robotics team members from the high school and got to see one of their robots in action. She expressed how impressed she was by the students' creation, and asked them many questions about the program's impact on their education.

"There are 5,000 teams worldwide, and it's really amazing that we get to represent FIRST (Robotics) in this kind of a way," said Banks High School freshman Rephael Mauck, who has been involved with the team for three years.

There are two nationally recognized STEAM schools in Oregon, Bonamici said: Highland Park Middle School in Beaverton and Quatama Elementary School in Hillsboro.

"I think it's great that here in northwest Oregon, we have some (nationally recognized schools)," she said. "There were only eight schools nationally recognized as model STEAM programs, and two of them are here."

Bonamici is a strong believer in integrating creativity and design for students into schools, she said.

"I've been a fan of robotics for a long time," she told the team members. "I look for opportunities to visit robotics programs, because I think they are a good addition to schools. I wish every school had one."

By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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